The LipGloss Mastermind

"Vague Premonitions"

"Hold on," Tony said as they reached the bottom of the stairs and walked into the main café area. "We can't go out yet. There are still cops everywhere, not to mention the bounty on our heads. We wouldn't get ten feet before someone spotted us."

"True, but they can't catch us if they can't see us." Allison said, pulling out a pokéball and releasing the pokémon inside. "It'll be a little obvious, but it should give us enough cover to make our exit."

The trio looked down as an adorable vaporeon looked back up at them. "Ree!" She chimed, swishing her mermaid-like tail.

"Not now Pina, we've got a job." Allison said and the blue creature instantly turned serious. "I figure she can create a fog thick enough for us to hide in until we reach safer grounds." She said, turning toward her male counterparts.

"Sounds good, but are you sure Pina is up to it? Even for a small town that's still a lot of fog to make. Not to mention how suspicious it'll look, having all this fog appear out of nowhere and in only one part of town." Tony said as he leaned against a wall. After a few moments of thoughtful silence, Brett patted Pina on the head and walked toward the door.

"Maybe so, but the longer we stay here the more danger we put ourselves in, especially if that bastard Matt manages to report us. I say we go with Ally's plan while we still can."

Allison smiled and walked up to the door too, Pina following closely behind. All three of them looked at Tony who eventually sighed and joined them. Allison unhooked the bell that hung above the door and set it down, then gently opened the door half way. "Okay Pina, you're on. Use mist out there, extra thick."

Pina pushed her head through the opening and looked around at the near empty street. Closing her eyes to concentrate then taking a deep breath, she exhaled a light blue fog that crept out into the street and continued to spread. At first the fog was translucent but as Pina kept going it soon became thick like pea soup.

"Awesome job, Pina! Come on, let's go!" Allison whispered as they went out and disappeared into the fog.

{ * * * }

"A tracker?" Ash and Misty exclaimed simultaneously. The old man nodded and carefully took the small device out of the box. The size of wristwatch battery, it was dark greenish-black and had a tiny screen on one side with three little red lights. Two of the lights were close together and blinked slowly, while the other was far on the other side of the screen and didn't blink at all.

"While I'm not sure if it was their own intention to keep a tracker on themselves, it has the Rocket logo on the back so it must be theirs. That one light that doesn't blink represents this very tracker while the two other lights might be the other member's trackers."

The old man held it out to Ash who gently took it and held it up so he could get a closer look.

"But, if it tracks the movement of Allison and her teammates, then they each must have one, right? Wouldn't they notice one was gone and come back here to get it?" Misty asked, looking at the tracker.

"That's why I kept it in this iron box. The materials this box is made up of interrupts most electronic waves, so the other trackers wouldn't get a clear reading of where it was." The old man answered.

"Ah. But... if they dropped this a few days ago, and you had your suspicions that they were from Team Rocket, why didn't you report this and them to Officer Jenny?" Misty asked again, turning towards him. He looked down at the box and slowly closed it.

"I, well, I was worried that if I did, word would've spread that Team Rocket had been here. This shop is all I have left, I couldn't risk losing it." He said quietly, avoiding Misty's stare.

"Our friend almost died because of them. If you had given this to the police, they could have tracked them down and Brock never would've gotten hurt." Ash said, his voice icy. The old man shrank back under their glare.

"I'm helping now, aren't I?" he said quietly, putting the box back under the counter. Misty looked at Ash and nudged her head towards the door. Ash nodded and they made their way to the exit. "Don't forget -- You didn't find that here. You promised!" The old man called after them, but Ash only raised his hand in response.

Once outside, Ash and Misty watched the tracker screen as they slowly walked back towards the hospital. The single red light on one side of the screen blinked and moved along with their movement. The other two lights on the opposite side of the screen were also moving in the same direction: east.

Ash scooped Pikachu up with one arm and let him rest on his shoulder, and then he and Misty dashed out into the light rain towards the tracker lights across town. A few minutes and a couple sneezes later, Misty noticed something.

"Hey, isn't this the way to the Pokémon Center?"

Ash looked around at the buildings slowly fading in the growing fog and nodded. "I think so, but why would they go back to the Center? It must be filled with officers."

"Well, maybe they went to the Café. It is just a few houses over from the Center, and that milkshake thing is still pretty odd. Maybe we'll find some clues there."

"Let's hope so..." Ash murmured as they continued running.

{ * * * }

Allison, Brett, and Tony walked carefully side-by-side down the sidewalk, with Pina slightly ahead of them. Every so often she'd stop and blow more mist around them. The fog was so thick now; they could barely see the sidewalk in front of them.

"Where are we going?" Tony asked in whisper, just in case someone unwanted was nearby.
"Not out the city gates, that's for sure. No doubt there's police blocking every exit." Allison whispered back, keeping an eye on her vaporeon. "But maybe we can fly out. I remember hearing about an old aviator warehouse on the eastern edge of town. Maybe something still flies over there."

"Well, why don't we skip the flying part and just walk out of town?" Brett said. Tony and Allison stopped to stare at him.
"Hello, if we could do that we wouldn't be here right now. I'm sure the cops are watching all the borders, so there's no way we could just saunter out of here. But if we flew..."

Allison paused at the sound of Pina yipping. She turned around to see the dark blur of her pokémon disappear into the fog ahead of them.

"Pina!" She whispered loudly before giving chase.
"Ally, wait up! We shouldn't split up!" Brett called, but it was too late.
"C'mon." Tony said and they followed blindly after her.

{ * * * }

Down the staircase he slowly went, gripping tightly to the handrail. His face and body was throbbing from pain, and he was sure he tasted blood in his mouth. His new cell phone was busted, and in his greed he lost both birds. Strings of curses and words of revenge clouded his mind as he slowly made his way toward the kitchen. Surely some ice packs and maybe a steak or two awaited him there.

- - -

"I can't believe how thick the fog got!" Misty exclaimed. "How can we find the Café if we can't see where we're going?" She looked over to where Ash was but could only see a faint blur of his outline that began to stop running.

"You're right, we'll just end up getting lost. Noctowl, go!" A flash of red illuminated the thick fog, and the large owl hooted from somewhere above them. "Noctowl, try blowing this fog away!" Ash commanded.

The sound of Noctowl's wings beating against the air could be heard, but the density of the fog didn't seem to change much. A few feet of visibility had been gained and Misty could see Ash more clearly, but that was it. Noctowl cooed disappointingly.

"Thanks Noctowl, re... wait. Fly up and see if you can find a building nearby with a giant pokéball on the roof."

Noctowl hooted and flew off. Ash and Misty waited where they stood, looking into the wall of fog around them. A few minutes later Noctowl returned, hovering in the air above Ash.

"Wow, that was fast. Did you find it?" He asked. The bird hooted and pointed in a direction with one wing while continuing to flap the other. Ash turned toward the direction Noctowl pointed to and looked over his left shoulder. "If the Pokémon Center is this way, then the Café should be this way. Good job, Noctowl. Return." Recalling his pokémon and turning in the direction he deemed led to the café, he and Misty ran into the fog.

- - -

Matt sat on one of the barstools with his back leaning against the counter. A steak rested on each side of his face while his hands held large bags of ice to his torso. Despite his frustration of the day's turn of events, he began to drift to sleep. Although this too wouldn't go his way.

A car honking came to a screeching halt right outside of the café, startling him so much that he jumped out of his chair, knocking the steaks off his face and spilling the ice all over the floor. His eyes narrowed in rage as he stumbled toward the door, ready for a shouting match, but one had already started. He opened the door to see two kids shouting at the driver of the car for not watching where he was going. The driver shouted back that they were idiots for running into the road like that. The kids replied that he was the idiot for driving so fast on a foggy day. The shouting match went on for a few minutes more but Matt, recognizing the two kids, left to prepare.

- - -

"I can't believe that guy!" Seethed Ash after the car that nearly hit them drove off. Togepi was crying from the ordeal and Misty slowly rocked it. "I just hope we don't have to stay much longer. This town has brought us nothing but trouble since we got here." She said quietly as Togepi began to calm down.

"Speaking of trouble..." Ash mumbled as he looked up at the building in front of them. The fog, which was thinner here because of the air swoosh the car made, revealed a large sign that read 'The Asahi Café'. "...We're here."

{ * * * }

Brock and his only remaining pokémon sat quietly while watching the television. Every so often a news brief would appear during commercials, giving rewards in hopes of info on the Rockets still at large, or the odd weather outbreaks that could be related. The pokémon could tell that the news brought pain to its trainer, yet he never changed the channel.

"That's them." He finally said during one of the news briefs. The pokémon looked up at the tv to see an artist's sketch of three people, one blonde woman and two dark-haired men.

"These three Rockets are believed to still be in the Nomai area, and their names are Allison, Tony, and Brett. No further information about them is known, but if you see them or have any information please contact us or the police at once." The news reporter said while the sketch was shown.

"Allison, Tony, and Brett." Brock repeated flatly. "Remember those names, Crobat. They took our friends away, but we won't let them get away with it."

Crobat nodded at its trainer and looked back at the tv, memorizing the sketch and their names. "We're going to find them." It heard Brock say and its voice crackled in agreement.

{ * * * }

Ash and Misty walked through the main café area, careful not to step on any of the ice that littered the ground. They looked in disgust how trashed the café was -- tables had been overturned, chairs, food, and ice was thrown all over the floor, and there were wrappers and ripped paper everywhere.

"What happened here?" Misty wondered aloud as Matt came out of the kitchen. His hair was sticking everywhere, had a black eye and his shirt was torn in three different places. He had a piece of raggedy-edged rope draped around his neck and was carrying a broom.

"Oh, 'ello there." He rasped, limping towards them. "I'm sorry, but we're closed right now."

"Are you okay? What happened?" Ash and Misty exclaimed while running up to him. Matt slowly took notice of the rope still on him, placed it on the counter, and sighed.

"It was those awful Rockets. When I closed shop last night, I thought everyone had left. But when I went to check on the register, they jumped me. I tried to resist, but they outnumbered me three-to-one. They tied me up and left me in the pantry. I just got out a few minutes ago thanks to a rusty nail." Matt paused to look around the café and shook his head sadly. "I thought I heard 'em celebrating, but I didn't think they'd trash the place this bad. This is like my second home, y'know?"

Ash and Misty nodded sadly while Pikachu and Togepi made condolence sounds.

"So, what are you kids doing here?" Matt asked.

"Well, we're looking for them, Allison in particular. She stole our friend's pokémon and almost killed him. We thought maybe they'd stop by here." Ash answered.

"You were right on that account." Matt sighed in distress as he looked at the state of his café. "I wish I could find 'em..." He muttered shaking his fist lightly in the air. "Make 'em pay for what they did."

Ash looked at Misty as if thinking a question, but she shook her head.

"Well, we should get going. Good luck with the café and take care." She said and walked toward the door with Ash not too far behind.

"Wait, hang on." Matt called after them. "You two aren't really going to face those Rockets all by yourselves, are you?" Ash and Misty nodded. "But they can be vicious! Maybe I should come along too. Y'know, to make it even."

"I dunno..." Ash said while getting a worried look from Misty.

"Ah, c'mon. You could use the extra help. Besides, you want to get back at 'em for what they did to your friend, right?" Ash narrowed his eyes and nodded fiercely. "Well then, let me tag along. You won't regret it." Matt finished and leaned the broom against the counter.

"Well... alright. But I have to make a phone call. Brock should know that we're on their trail and closing in." Ash said as he walked to a payphone near the staircase.

{ * * * }

The fog was slowly beginning to dissipate and it had finally stopped raining. Brett was growing impatient from their fruitless search, and Tony got the feeling that he was going to do something stupid. Not seeing any other people around, Brett took a deep breath, cupped his hands around mouth and...

"Hey!" Brett shouted as Tony suddenly slapped the back of his head.
"You're such a moron!" Tony hissed. "Everyone in town is looking for us, remember? Shouting her name is only going to bring attention to ourselves."
"Then how do you expect to find her?" Brett whispered, glaring back at him. "We've been wandering around here for a half hour now and haven't found a thing."
"Well getting the cops' attention sure as hell won't help any. If you had brought your houndour..."
"Man, I told you already. Pono got food poisoning and was in no condition to come along. Besides, with all this rain I doubt he'd be able to track her."

Tony and Brett stood in silence until all of a sudden Tony's eyes widened with realization. Reaching to the back of his neck, he pulled out a small tracker from the inside of his shirt's collar. Brett soon followed suit, but was disappointed to find his missing. He began examining the ground around them and Tony shook his head.

"Don't tell me you lost it again." He sighed. Brett, not seeing it on the ground, walked up to Tony.
"Is it showing up on yours?" He asked.
"Yeah, right there." Tony said, pointing to a blip on the screen. "C'mon, let's go."

{ * * * }

"Pina! Oh, Piiiiinaaaa!" Allison called into the fog. She could have sworn she saw that blue pain-in-the-butt come this way...
"Ah! There you are!" She said relieved, spotting the vaporeon next to a brick wall. "Pina, what is wrong with you? You know better than to run off like that. Especially while on a mission!"

"Reeon..." Pina mumbled, glancing up at her trainer before returning her gaze to the object in front of her. Allison bent down to see what her pokémon was looking at, and was less than happy at the result.

"A shoe? You got us separated from our team just to find a shoe? A fish or someone's wallet I can understand. But a shoe?!" The vaporeon laid down next to the shoe and looked back up at Allison with sad eyes. "Reeon..." She mumbled again. Allison sighed and looked carefully at the blue and white shoe again, trying to take it seriously. The moment didn't last long.

"...I'm sorry Pina, but I don't see the connection. And we really need to meet back with Brett and Tony. So say goodbye to the shoe 'cause it's time to go." Allison said, standing back up and pulling out Pina's pokéball.

Pina stood up and nodded respectfully before the shoe, then turned toward Allison. "Alright Pina, let's go home." She smiled softly as she recalled her pokémon. Slipping the pokéball back into her bag, she gave the solitary shoe one last glance before turning to leave, where she proceeded to bump into someone.

"Oh, excuse me, I... wait, you two!" Allison exclaimed, staring into the cold faces of Ash and Misty. She began to take a step back from them when something blunt hit her in the back of her head. She tried to steady herself as the world and her stomach began spinning, but her legs couldn't support her. She slowly slumped to the ground, her head exploding with pain. She tried reaching for Pina's pokéball, but the inches between the bag and her fingers were too far and she blacked out.

~{ * * * }~

Click here to go to part four.

Written by Jade Smith
May 2004